Verstappen holds off title rival Hamilton to take US Grand Prix victory

Max Verstappen resisted the pressure from a charging Lewis Hamilton to take victory at the Circuit of the Americas, as the teams went different on race strategy after Hamilton took the lead on the opening lap.

Red Bull had to use an undercut pit strategy to get Verstappen back in front, which meant Mercedes later left Hamilton out longer to set up an attempt at sealing a last-gasp victory.

At the start, Verstappen and Hamilton got away from the starting grid together but the Mercedes accelerated much better and the pair were almost immediately side by side as the began to climb the hill to the Turn 1 left-hand hairpin.

Verstappen squeezed Hamilton over the pitlane exit line to the inside edge of the track, but the defending world champion had the line and was able to steal ahead at the Turn 1 apex.

The Red Bull Racing driver hung over around the outside line but was shown to the edge of the track in turn by Hamilton, who raced clear into the lead as Perez surged alongside Verstappen, who had to rejoin from off the track.

Perez conceded ground his teammate into the Turn 3 left that starts the Esses complex in the first sector as the pack charged after the leaders, only Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi adrift at the back after making contact at Turn 1 with the Aston Martin driver spun around in front of the Williams.

The top three immediately pulled clear of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in fourth, the trio able to run in the high one minute, 41 seconds while the rest were at least a second slower in the early tours of the 56-lap race.

Hamilton and Verstappen also edged clear of Perez, with the leader holding a lead of just under a second throughout the opening ten laps, during which Verstappen insisted to Red Bull that he had pace in hand and that Hamilton was “sliding a lot”.

Hamilton confirmed to Mercedes that his rival was indeed quicker, but, as the pair pulled further clear of Perez who was dropped back to the one minute, 42 seconds, he continued to hold the advantage.

On lap 10, Verstappen told Red Bull he suddenly found himself sliding more and not going as fast as he had been before and at the end of the tour, he was brought in to switch the mediums all the leaders had started on for hards.

Verstappen carved his way by the yet-to-stop Daniel Ricciardo, running behind Leclerc, on his out lap, with Mercedes opting not to bring Hamilton in immediately to cover his rival.

With Verstappen lighting up the timing screens with a string of fastest laps, the Dutchman urged Red Bull to use Perez’s strategy aggressively with a second undercut to stop Mercedes leaving him out for a long first stint.

When Red Bull did just that by pitting Perez for a second set of mediums at the end of lap 12, Hamilton was indeed called in at the end of the following tour, with Verstappen moving back into the lead easily when the Mercedes re-joined.

Verstappen therefore found himself with a six second lead that he maintained over the next phase of the race – the leaders now running in the high one minute, 40 seconds – with Perez ten seconds behind in third.

Just past the 20-lap mark, Hamilton began to turn the screw as he upped his pace to reach the low one minute, 40 seconds, which quickly ate into Verstappen’s advantage.

The Red Bull’s lead was soon under three seconds as Hamilton’s three-lap tyre life off-set advantage began to pay off, as Verstappen even slipped back to the 1m41s as he made his way through backmarker traffic.

But Verstappen was able to respond, gaining back a chunk just before the virtual safety car was briefly activated so a piece of debris could be retrieved by a marshal at the entry to Turn 16, the multi-corner complex leading to the track’s final corners.

Red Bull then went aggressive again with Verstappen’s strategy, calling him in for a second set of hards at the end of lap 29, with Mercedes immediately telling Hamilton he would be running long in response – Perez now far from a threat behind.

Hamilton was left out for an extra eight laps after Verstappen came in for a second time, with Mercedes setting up a significant second tyre life advantage for the end of the race.

When Hamilton exited the pits at the start of lap 38, he had an 8.7 seconds gap to close over 18 laps and during the early phase of that chase he made small gains on his rival, but then upped his pace to reach the one minute, 38 seconds as Verstappen struggled to lap traffic, with the gap rapidly coming down to 4.8 seconds at the end of lap 42.

Once the pair had both cleared the traffic, with Hamilton seemingly held up less, Verstappen’s lead continued to fall, albeit back to a steadier rate, with his team telling him to make sure he had enough tyre life left to defend against Hamilton coming into DRS zones late in the race.

At the lap 50 point, Verstappen’s lead was under two seconds for the first time, but Hamilton’s gains were getting smaller again as he arrived at the Red Bull’s wake.

The gap stabilised for a brief time before Hamilton closed further in with three laps to go – Verstappen’s lead barely a second and with Mick Schumacher’s Haas suddenly a factor as he came to be lapped for a second time.

But although Hamilton was just 0.8 seconds behind at the start of the final tour, Verstappen had DRS down the pit straight as he had been with the detection zone following the Haas at the end of the penultimate lap.

That helped Verstappen pull clear just enough to never let Hamilton had a DRS activation or make a move in battle, with the Red Bull coming him to win by 1.3 seconds.

Perez finished 42.2 seconds behind Verstappen, with Leclerc only ten seconds adrift of the second Red Bull by the finish.

Fifth position went to Ricciardo after he clashed with the Carlos Sainz late in the race – the pair and Lando Norris also engaging in a thrilling fight on the first lap, while Sainz dropped behind Valtteri Bottas late on.

Norris took eighth behind his former teammate, with Yuki Tsunoda, who defied Bottas for several laps mid-way through the race with a series of bold defensive moves, taking ninth.

Sebastian Vettel rose from his rear-of-the-field start, thanks to his pre-event engine change, and the Aston driver claimed the final point after his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen spun out of tenth place with a dramatic spin at the long and bumpy Turn 6 right with three laps to the end.

Alpine retired both cars – Esteban Ocon with an unspecified problem at the rear of his car, and later Fernando Alonso after his rear wing “broke up”.

Pierre Gasly was the first retirement when his AlphaTauri’s rear suspension was damaged on lap 12.

So a tense and exciting race at the United States Grand Prix with Max Verstappen resisting the pressure from rival Lewis Hamilton to take victory. The championship fight has been epic and will continue as there is five races to go. Mexico is next.

United States Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:34:36.552
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.333
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +42.223
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +52.246s
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +76.854s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +80.128s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +83.545s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +84.395s
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault DNF
– Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

3 thoughts to “Verstappen holds off title rival Hamilton to take US Grand Prix victory”

  1. US Grand Prix race review as reported by

    Max Verstappen won a spectacular duel with title rival Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 United States Grand Prix, with Red Bull gaining ground on Mercedes thanks to Perez’s podium finish – and the championship leader extending his lead to 12 points.

    From second on the grid Hamilton enjoyed a stellar start off the line as the lights went out in Austin, and despite Verstappen squeezing him as far as possible down the inside to the run-up to Turn 1, the Briton gained P1 from the Dutchman to lead going into the esses. Perez, starting third, followed and began to lose hundredths, then tenths, to the leaders.

    Red Bull championship hopeful Verstappen opened the pit window on Lap 11, pitting from medium tyres to hards, while Mercedes’ reigning champion Hamilton followed in on Lap 14 only to emerge second behind the under-cutting Red Bull driver. But there was another pit stop to come under the scorching Texas sun.

    The second set of stops came when Verstappen came in on Lap 29 for another set of hards, his team mate Perez following – while Hamilton once again stayed out longer, holding a fragile 16-second lead over Verstappen. “We are racing for the win,” he was told by Team Principal Toto Wolff.

    “Leave me to it, bro!” came Hamilton’s response. With an 11.5s lead, he pitted on Lap 37, stopped on his marks and was back out in second on new hard tyres – 8.8s behind Verstappen this time, for a chase to the chequered flag.

    “It’s all about the last three laps,” Hamilton was told. And indeed, it was, as the gap to Verstappen didn’t start tumbling until Lap 41 of 56 when the leader encountered backmarkers. With five laps remaining, just 1.7s split the front two, and Hamilton had DRS on Verstappen on the very last lap. But the Dutchman found just enough pace on his worn, hard compounds, and took victory – by 1.3s – with what team boss Christian Horner called a “classy” display. Perez took the final podium spot.

    Charles Leclerc drove brilliantly to P4 for Ferrari having held off Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren at the start, the Australian having made up one place at the expense of Carlos Sainz early on. That left Valtteri Bottas sixth for Mercedes ahead of Carlos Sainz, the Ferrari driver passed for the place late on by the Mercedes man who recovered from ninth on the grid.

    Ricciardo’s team mate Lando Norris took eighth having lost a place to Bottas after the second set of pit stops. Behind Norris was Yuki Tsunoda in P9, the rookie having started 10th on soft tyres but handled the fragile compounds masterfully, gaining a place as AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly retired with suspension issues.

    In the final point-paying spot was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who started 18th after a engine change penalty.

    Esteban Ocon of Alpine was the next retiree, on Lap 42. His Alpine team mate Alonso followed into the pits from P14 with five laps remaining, citing a rear wing issue.

    Turn 1 at Texas has all the ingredients for high drama: a wide run-in and a narrow run-off punctuated by a sharp apex. Add in Max Verstappen on pole position, Lewis Hamilton sharing the front row ahead of Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc on row two, and we were always destined to witness an enthralling start to the 2021 United States Grand Prix.

    So, after much fanfare, immaculate blue skies overlooking a sell-out crowd at Texas waving flags of every shade, five lights turned on; five lights went out. And it was Hamilton who got the better of Verstappen off the line, scything down the inside of Turn 1 and resisting his rival’s attempt to cut him off, while Verstappen went wide at the run-off area. The Dutchman came back onto the track next to team mate Perez, who duly let him back past for P2.

    Meanwhile, the Ferraris and McLarens battled in a pack from Leclerc in P4 to Lando Norris in P7 on Lap 1. Norris made an ambitious run for fourth but locked up down the long back straight into Turn 12, leaving Leclerc in P4, Ricciardo fifth and Sainz, who briefly went wide at the corner, in P6. Norris’s former team mate Sainz was later forced to give the place back, did so, and regained sixth soon after.

    The title protagonists led away while Perez dropped a couple of tenths every lap, the Mexican struggling to keep pace. Mercedes’ Bottas struggled from P9, where he started thanks to a five-place grid penalty, and was forced to give up P10 to Pierre Gasly after making an off-track pass on the Frenchman at the start.

    “Tyres are really hot, and I don’t think we are particularly quick,” said Verstappen before pitting for hard compounds on Lap 11 to leave Hamilton vulnerable to the undercut. The Red Bull driver emerged fifth behind Ricciardo and made light work of P4, heading into P3 as Leclerc stopped with Perez – who went on a contrarian strategy, pitting for mediums rather than hards – on Lap 12.

    The undercut worked; from the lead, Hamilton finally pitted on Lap 14 and emerged on hard tyres – but over six seconds behind Verstappen as the Dutchman retook P1 to huge cheers. But with the sun bearing down and the tyres screaming out, there was another pitstop in the works and Verstappen took his before Hamilton once again, pitting from the lead for hards on Lap 29.

    Hamilton would continue on and only pit on Lap 37, his 11.5s lead turning into an 8.8s deficit when he emerged in second place. “It’s all about the last three laps,” he was told, but the gap to Verstappen began to shrink with 15 laps remaining when the Dutchman encountered backmarkers.

    With 10 laps left, only three seconds split the leaders; with five laps left it was 1.7s. But Verstappen kept his cool, even as backmarkers tested his patience, and found a late turn of pace – eventually holding the defending champion off by 1.3 seconds at the chequered flag. His tyres told more of the story, blistered, burned, and battered. It was a display worthy of the championship lead.

    Perez, 42.2s off Verstappen at the end, took the final podium place with a rapid second stint on medium tyres to give Red Bull valuable points against Mercedes in their hunt for the constructors’ championship.

    In fourth was a rapid Leclerc, just 10 seconds behind Perez, as the Ferrari driver started in P4 and pitted almost in sequence with the Mexican albeit on a medium-hard-hard strategy, to head the midfield.

    That left Ricciardo to round out the top five, the medium-shod Australian gaining from soft-tyred Carlos Sainz at the start of the race and resisting Sainz’s attempted Lap 29 undercut by pitting just after him. But it was a close call – the two banging wheels on Lap 43 to leave the frustrated Ferrari driver with damage.

    Bottas finished sixth from ninth, his recovery drive held up by Yuki Tsunoda at the start, and Sainz at the end – but a decision to go longer than the Ferraris and McLarens saw him emerge ahead of Norris on Lap 34. He was within tenths of P6 at the end and duly passed Sainz (P7) for points that could well help Mercedes secure an eighth constructors’ championship.

    Norris therefore finished eighth from seventh on the grid, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda, who took P9 from P10 as team mate Pierre Gasly retired with a suspension issue on Lap 15. The Japanese driver started on softs, pitted on Lap 8 for hards and again on Lap 32, to take two points in a solid showing.

    Kimi Raikkonen nearly took the final point thanks to a stellar start to the race but spun off the track at Turn 6 with three laps remaining, giving engine penalty-hit Sebastian Vettel an unlikely P10 for Aston Martin from P18 as he pulled off a medium-medium-hard strategy.

    Antonio Giovinazzi was heading for P12 but took P11 thanks to his Alfa Romeo team mate’s late mistake, while Lance Stroll gained an unlikely place at the end too – after taking damage thanks to contact from Williams’ Nicholas Latifi at the start – and gained one place overall to finish 12th ahead of Raikkonen.

    George Russell finished 14th ahead of Williams team mate Latifi, who hit his compatriot’s Aston Martin at Turn 1 on Lap 1, and finished 15th after a front wing change.

    With Gasly (suspension), fellow Frenchman Esteban Ocon and his Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso (rear wing) the three retirees, Mick Schumacher took 16th ahead of Haas team mate Nikita Mazepin in P17 at their team’s home race.

  2. Race winner Max Verstappen felt unsure on the aggressive strategy was enough to beat Lewis Hamilton. has the news story.

    Max Verstappen felt unsure Red Bull’s aggressive strategy would be enough to win him the United States Grand Prix as he extended his Formula 1 championship lead in Austin.

    Verstappen lost the lead from F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton at the start, but was able to get back in front after undercutting at the first round of pit stops, coming in at the end of lap 10.

    Mercedes pitted Hamilton three laps later, and while he was able to close through the second stint thanks to his tyre advantage, Red Bull reacted first and brought Verstappen in for a second time on lap 29.

    It left Verstappen with a 27-lap stint to complete to the finish, and he looked at risk of losing the win when Hamilton began to catch at a rate of one second per lap after making his final stop, cutting an eight-second gap down to less than two.

    But after being instructed to look after his rear tyres so he could get a good exit out of the slower corners and into DRS zones, Verstappen managed to stabilise the gap, eventually crossing the line 1.3 seconds clear of Hamilton.

    “We lost out at the start, so we had to try and do something else,” Verstappen explained in parc ferme after the race.

    “But the tyre wear is quite high around this track, so we did go aggressive.

    “I was not sure it was going to work, but yeah, the last few laps were fun. A bit sideways through the high speed corners, but super happy of course to hang on.”

    The result means Verstappen now leads the drivers’ championship by 12 points with five races remaining, securing his first win at the Circuit of The Americas.

    Hamilton had managed to briefly reduce the gap to less than one second in the closing stages, but never got close enough to use DRS and reel the Red Bull in.

    “It was such a tough race,” Hamilton said. “[I] got a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day they just had the upper hand this weekend.

    “We couldn’t really ask for more, but a big, big thank you to my team for great pitstops, great hard work throughout the weekend.”

    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner praised Verstappen for an “unbelievable” and “classy” victory, and admitted on Sky Sports after the race he was unsure the Dutchman could have held on.

    “I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off,” Horner said.

    “Lewis [had] eight lap newer tyres, the first set of hards that came off, we were pretty much down to the canvas, and we were thinking we wouldn’t have much at the end left.

    “Lewis, you know the end of the race, he’s so strong and he’s gone long, he’s bought himself and advantage.

    “To lose a race in the last couple of laps would have been really painful. Max just held on, he did a brilliant job and had just enough at the end there.”

  3. Down to canvas on the hard compound left Red Bull Racing doubtful of Max Verstappen win and yet he did it. has the details.

    Red Bull boss Christian Horner says the state of Max Verstappen’s tyres at the end of his second stint left him sceptical about winning Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix.

    An aggressive strategy from Red Bull in going for an early undercut against Lewis Hamilton had put Verstappen in the lead of the race, before the team again triggered an early stop for a long final stint.

    But with Red Bull discovering that Verstappen’s first set of hards were down to their canvas, Horner said that doubts had crept in about whether or not the Dutchman would be able to keep his tyres alive until the end.

    “I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off,” Horner told Sky. “Lewis, with eight lap newer tyres, and the first set of hards that came off, we were pretty much down to the canvas. And then thinking, well, we’re not going to have much left at the end here.

    “But I think really, [key was] the way he managed that tyre through the last stint to make sure he had enough for the last five or six laps.”

    Red Bull knew that the final laps of the race were going to be critical, and admitted that it would have really ‘hurt’ to have seen Hamilton blast past Verstappen so close to the end.

    “With Lewis, you know the end of the race he’s going to be so strong,” added Horner. “He’s gone long, he’s bought himself an advantage.

    “To lose a race like that in the last two or three laps, we lost one to [Mercedes] in Montreal, and that really hurt. So to lose one here would have been really painful. Max just held on, he did a great job. He drove a great race, really smartly, and had just enough at the end there.”

    Horner said Red Bull elected to go early with the second stop because they were worried that Mercedes would go for the powerful undercut itself to give Hamilton track position.

    “We were convinced they were also looking at the undercut at the end of the second stint. And we know that they have very good degradation, so that’s why we pitted him early as well.

    “We were running out of tyres. He was within three seconds, the undercut, and we didn’t want to give up that track position. So we banked the track position, but that meant the last five to 10 laps were going to be crucial.”

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